Stands for "Windows Internet Name Service." WINS is a service that enables Windows to identify NetBIOS systems on a TCP/IP network. It maps NetBIOS names to IP addresses, which is a more standard way to identify network devices.

WINS is similar to DNS, which is used for resolving domain names. Like DNS, WINS requires a server to perform name resolutions and return the IP address to client systems. However, instead of resolving domain names, WINS is used specifically to locate NetBIOS systems. For example, WINS may translate the NetBIOS name WorkComputer00 to the IP address This allows other systems on the network to access WorkComputer00 directly by its IP address.

Early versions of Windows (before Windows 2000) located network devices by their NetBIOS names. Therefore, Windows servers were required to run WINS in order to access network systems. Windows 2000 and later can use DNS to locate network systems, which means WINS is not required on modern Windows servers. However, many Windows systems still run WINS for backwards compatibility with older devices.

Updated September 13, 2012 by Per C.

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